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Inter-Subaltern Turn: A Methodological Proposal for Exploring International Imaginaries beyond the West-Rest Binary
The post-Cold War Middle East has witnessed the rise of competing, yet entangled ideas about what makes the international order unjust and how to transform it accordingly. These ‘international imaginaries’ are competing not only over what Vivien Jabri calls ‘access to the political and the international’, but also over transforming the scalar arrangement of the regional order and norms of politicking therein. This condition illustrates a multi-temporal image of modernity that profoundly contrasts Eurocentric narratives of unilinearity of history and supratemporality of the political and the international. It also alludes to the significance of existing local inter-societal hierarchies in the formation of rivalries over future orders. However, as I argue in this article, the existing mainstream and postcolonial analytical frameworks reduce these hierarchies to mirror images of the West-Rest binary and, thus, confine their multi-temporality to the binary logic of Eurocentric imaginaries. My article explores this issue and the possibilities for tackling it in three steps. First, I explain how the West-Rest binary is ingrained at the core of a main body of postcolonial and some Marxist analyses of non-Western societies through their methodological Eurocentrism. I will also explain how this has caused an optical illusion in recognizing the temporal direction of international imaginaries and their oppressive or egalitarian implications. Second, to avoid these issues, I suggest taking an ‘inter-subaltern turn’ in understanding the roots and political implications of international imaginaries. The inter-subaltern turn does not dismiss the significance of colonial and imperial relations in the constitution of the modern world and acknowledges the subaltern position of many societies, states, and groups that fall under the ‘Rest’ category in the international space. However, by stressing on the historicity of nation-state building processes, it enables redeeming the significance of the transformation of local socio-political hierarchies in the trans/formation of modern international imaginaries. In developing this framework, I will draw on Cornelius Castoriadis’s theory of social imaginaries and on the tradition of social and political ecology's theory of power, particularly in the works of Lewis Mumford, Abdullah Ocalan, and Murray Bookchin. Finally, I will concretise the first two parts of my article by explaining their implications for understanding the international imaginaries underlying the Turkish-Kurdish conflict, first, at the moment of the emergence of the nation-state of Turkey, and second, upon the rise of democratic confederalism and neo-Ottomanism as two entangled but contrasting imaginaries.
International Relations/Affairs
Political Science
Geographic Area
Ottoman Empire
Sub Area